Mentor Day: Amsterdam

What do you do when you work in a lab that has invested thousands in high-tech equipment but is still recording its findings in a three-ring binder? Most people might think to themselves, “there should be a better way to do this,” and then forget about it. But not Maarten Dokter, who founded Labficiency, one of the three startups that participated in yesterday’s Mentor Day in Amsterdam. Our three startups recognized problems and inefficiencies and set out to fix them.

labficiencyDokter is now developing a workflow and data-management platform with a mission to eliminate notebooks from laboratories altogether. The platform will allow scientists to more efficiently store, manage, search, and share data–a world away from the capabilities of a notebook.

The mentor day that took place in Amsterdam yesterday was attended by eleven mentors and three startups. The startups gave ten minute pitches to three groups of mentors and then spent 30 minutes fielding questions and receiving guidance. The startups then regrouped and repitched their ideas in only seven minutes, while making use of the advice that they received in the first round.

lucipher The mentors awarded one startup, Lucipher, a chance to compete as a finalist in a SmartCamp event later on in the year. Lucipher is a data storing and sharing service for enterprises. What makes this startup unique is the security that it provides for enterprises that want to use cloud services.

The founders of Lucipher, Pieter van Beek and Evert Lammerts, recognized that there were many industries that could not take advantage of the cloud revolution because of security issues. Medical Centers, Academia, Corporate R&D departments, governments, and police, to name a few, cannot use unencrypted cloud services. Lucipher provides these industries with end-to-end encryption, which means that data is encrypted before it enters into the cloud.

Congratulations, Pieter and Evert!

24pulseThe third startup that attended is 24Pulse. The founder, Remy Gillet, has an interest in developing opportunities in the mobile space. 24Pulse connects current IT systems with employees’ mobile devices. Their mission is to improve the speed of personalized data distribution and reach to employees. Their target markets include healthcare, transaction monitoring, and revenue assurance. The platform is easy to set up and tailor for every individual business’ needs.

Thank you to all of our mentors and entrepreneurs for participating in Mentor Day!

Stay tuned – more mentor days to come in the coming weeks!

Through the eyes of a student: Jamie Murphey

At the IBM SmartCamp Global Finals on Feb. 7th, IBM was happy to welcome not only business leaders and entrepreneurs in the audience, but many students as well. Here is a piece about the event written by MBA candidate Jamie Murphey from CUNY Baruch Zicklin School of Business. 

JamieMurpheyWhen I walked into the Waldorf Astoria in New York City for the IBM Smartcamp Global Finals this winter I was struck immediately with the energy of the room. Underneath the twinkling chandeliers, the AV team wove their way through clusters of entrepreneurs, investors and innovators with last minute sound checks and lighting adjustments. As the music began to play and the Twitter feed began streaming tweets of encouragement to the competing teams, I could feel the buzz of excitement and expectation rippling through the quickly filling ballroom.

I was delighted to attend IBM’s SmartCamp Global Finals. It was an opportunity to see firsthand as innovators throughout the globe compete for a prize that could transform the lives of their team forever: recognition. Though we were here for the competitors, it was hard not to be dazzled by the speaker lineup. Mayor Bloomberg gave the opening remarks in a charming and self-deprecating review of his efforts to promote entrepreneurship. Several technology and investment thought leaders participated in panels on global entrepreneurship, and a former winner described his experience after being chosen as the winner at a previous SmartCamp.

When the competitors were introduced, it was clear that the competition this year was fierce. The eight finalists would have only 6 minutes to present their answer to IBM’s challenge to envision a Smarter Planet. The range of ideas and reach of ambition was impressive, and the applications were downright futuristic.

From retail solutions to medical applications, the finalists wowed the audience. The mobile company Poikos created a body measurement application that allows customers to shop for clothing online while assessing the fit of the clothes by modeling the outfits on a detailed scan of the individual’s body. StreetLight Data provides geo-targeting solutions for marketing professionals. HistoIndex focused on improving the diagnosis and treatment of fibrosis.

Before we knew it, all eight finalists had presented, and the judges withdrew to deliberate. As we waited for the final results from the judges, Barbara Corcoran, the founder of the Corcoran Group and much-loved Shark from ABC’s hit reality series “Shark Tank” spoke on her early experiences in business, and how tenacity and boldness enabled her to become one of the top real estate brokers in the city.

Then the announcement! The winner of the competition, and one of the most exciting innovations at the event, was MoDe, a technology company that facilitates micro-lending in Africa using mobile phone minutes as currency.  The crowd approved, and the whole ballroom swelled with applause. I looked around at the faces of fellow entrepreneurs as we celebrated one of our own and was struck by the impact that IBM had created with their vision for a smarter planet. By providing leadership and cultivating potential, IBM brought people together from around the world to share ideas and grow together. Now that’s leadership.

IBM SmartCamp Global Finals Day 2: Mentor Sessions


Albert Lee, Managing Director, IDEO.

The second day of the IBM SmartCamp Global Finals, Feb 6th 2013, was an intense day for all of our finalists. The morning kicked off with a presentation by Albert Lee, Managing Director of IDEO, on the importance of “design,” that is, tapping into human creativity to foster innovation and problem-solve more efficiently. Then it was time for each of the eight finalists to present their five-minute business pitches to the more than 50 mentors in the room.

CaptainDash finalists explain their marketing platform solution to mentors.

CaptainDash finalists explain their marketing platform solution to mentors.

After the presentations, it was time to get down to the real work of the day; the mentor sessions. The finalists rotated between eight tables with a half-a-dozen or so mentors sitting at each, spending 40 minutes per table. During each of these sessions the finalists explained their companies in more depth while the mentors scrutinized and critiqued every aspect of their business and presentations. The mentors offered recommendations on how to improve their pitches or improve areas of their business model.

StreetLightData listens to feedback from mentors.

StreetLightData listens to feedback from mentors.

The sessions were quite grueling for the finalists and though they were very appreciative of the mentors’ fine guidance, the mid-afternoon cookie break was a welcome relief. Finally, after just about five and a half hours of mentoring, the day came to a close with some remarks by Paul Brunet, Vice President of ISVs, Startups & Academic Programs.

Finalists taking time to relax at the gala dinner.


The finalists did have a chance to breathe a bit afterwards at the reception followed by a gala dinner at the Waldorf Astoria. They enjoyed food and drinks and networking in a more relaxed setting and hopefully were able to put off thinking about their pitches for a little while at least.

IBM SmartCamp Global Finals Day 1: Master Class

027_IMG_6602Today was Day 1 of the IBM SmartCamp Global Finals, a three-day event which kicked off today with a Master Class for the eight startup finalists, featuring a powerhouse lineup of guest speakers. The goal of the day was to provide the finalists with insights and advice on tackling various aspects of growing a startup company.

Martin Kelly, Partner at IBM Venture Capital Group, was emcee for the day and after a brief introduction handed things off to Deborah Magid, Director of IBM Venture Capital Group. To set the stage for the day Deborah walked the eight finalist teams through some of IBM’s strategic priorities for 2013 and beyond, emphasizing the importance of being at the forefront of new wave technology, like mobile and cognitive computing.

028_IMG_6813Toward mid-morning, after a briefing from the IBM Public Relations team on some media best practices and tips for dealing with reporters, the finalists heard from Professor Robert Farrokhnia of Columbia Business School. After amusing the crowd with a slide depicting the proper pronunciation of his name (a picture of an oak tree in the distance + “nia”), Prof. Farrokhnia spoke about working with strategic partners. He advised the finalists not to let their boards be dominated by one or two investors, and also busted some myths about different kinds of venture capitalists, like the myth that corporate VCs are not good for startups.

Up next was Gerald Brady, Managing Director of Silicon Valley Bank, who gave an energetic presentation on what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur. One potent quote he shared with the audience was, “If you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for permission.” He also shared an excellent and hilarious French video on the importance of story-telling, which surprised everyone with its twist ending:

On the point of story-telling, Brady emphasized to the finalists that in order to get investors on board, they should be able to explain what they do to a 9-year-old, since investors are rarely interested in the complexities of the technology and rather want to understand the value.

014_IMG_6306The bulk of the Master Class Day, however, was presented by the next speaker Ken Morse, serial entrepreneur, sales veteran, and Visiting Professor from ESADE Business School. During Morse’s presentation, the audience got a taste of what it must be like to be a student in one of his classes–with Morse pacing up and down the aisles and keeping everyone on their toes by asking direct questions to various individuals. Among the many gems of advice he gave, here were some of the highlights: You can’t get great sales people unless you can convince them that they’ll make more money working for you. You won’t get anywhere with your business until you can convince potential clients that you thoroughly understand THEIR problem. Everybody and anybody is not a client; you have to know exactly who you’re selling to. And finally–an audience favorite–it takes a pig and a chicken to make a ham omelet. The difference is that the chicken was only involved; the pig was fully committed. As a startup, you have to be the pig, and be fully committed to your clients and solution.

043_IMG_7396The day wrapped up with an informative and lively panel discussion, featuring Bill Reichert, Managing Director, Garage Technology Ventures; Kazim Yalcinoglu, Metutech-Ban; Patrick de Zeeuw, Co-Founder and CEO, Startupbootcamp; and Phillippe Herbert, Partner, Banexi Ventures. They talked about global investment and cultures of innovation, but perhaps the most fun topic was the craziest thing a startup has ever said to them. Bill Reichert recalled an incident where a startup claimed that their company would be worth $30 trillion. “You mean the GDP of the entire planet?” he asked incredulously.

The day was interesting and informative, generating excellent questions and discussion among the finalists. Tomorrow the eight startups will work closely with expert mentors to refine their business models and pitches even further, before the final presentations this Thursday Feb. 7th. Already, the IBM SmartCamp Finals are off to an exciting start! Make sure to follow @IBMSmartCamp on Twitter for live updates this week.

Meet the Global Finalists: StreetLight Data

Meet StreetLight Data, a geospatial analytics startup from California and co-winner of the IBM SmartCamp North American Regional. They’ll be competing for the title IBM Entrepreneur of the Year next month in NYC, Feb. 5-7! This is part 5 of 8 in our Meet the Global Finalists series. Register for the public session on Feb. 7th here.

1. Briefly, what is your company’s solution, how does it work, and where did the idea come from?

StreetLight InSight™ helps retailers target marketing dollars by providing next-generation geospatial analytics on how potential customers move around their city. We measure what type of people are on the move at any location and break down this data by time, trip purpose, demographics, and work/home/top shopping locations. Our technology is a data factory which analyzes data exhaust from the mobile industry and marries it with existing public sources to create our metrics.

The idea came when we realized that the technology that we had invented (see below) had value for a lot of people, but that brick-and-mortar retailers were the most ready, willing, and able to pay–since their marketing metrics are about 20 years behind their e-commerce counterparts’.

In June 2012, Streetlight Data was named North American Co-Winner of the SmartCamp Regional Finals in Boston.

In June 2012, Streetlight Data was named North American Co-Winner of the SmartCamp Regional Finals in Boston.

2. Explain how the company was born; who are the key players on your team and how did they come together?

StreetLight was founded just over two years ago by Laura Schewel (CEO), as an extension of her PhD at UC Berkeley. She realized that, compared to most other major components of the economy, we know absolutely nothing about transportation behavior and that this gap limits all sorts of progress we want to see in transportation: from  reduced greenhouse emissions to improved quality of life and safety. After founding StreetLight Laura began looking for a database expert and a data licensing and privacy expert to complete the team, and was introduced to Paul (CTO) by friends, and found Kara (VP of Strategic Partners and Privacy) by trolling online.

3. How will your solution impact people’s lives for the better?

Three ways: First, we will support brick-and-mortar retailers, including small ones, improve their bottom line thereby keeping this important part of a vibrant community able to compete in the coming decades. Second, our data is also of great value to improve urban planning and transportation infrastructure design, and we will support Smarter Cities and Smarter Transportation that rely on much less petroleum. Third, creating a system that incentivizes shopping on a route people already drive (home to work, for example) we can reduce vehicle-miles-traveled, and therefore, petroleum use.

4. What is the best advice you’ve been given or the most important thing you’ve learned in the SmartCamp competition so far?

Your investors and your clients don’t REALLY care about your technology. Tell them about the value instead.

5. In what ways do you hope working with IBM will help your company grow and succeed?

We hope we can work with IBM’s software and consulting teams targeted at brick-and-mortar retailers to help better understand our market, and then to quickly scale our product.

Smarter_Commerce_Icon_6206. What is the main reason your company should be named IBM SmartCamp’s Entrepreneur of the Year?

Transportation is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas in the world. And the world has made VERY little progress in stopping this trend. StreetLight offers a scalable, financially sustainable information product that, once it exists, can be of great value not only to the mission of making transportation smarter, but also making cities smarter AND commerce smarter. The fact that the same product does all three validates and celebrates IBM’s vision of an integrated Smarter Planet, and that’s why we should be the Entrepreneur of the Year.

Meet the Global Finalists: QuintessenceLabs

Meet QuintessenceLabs, an Australian startup and co-winner of the Asian Regional SmartCamp in Beijing. This is Part 1 of 8 in our Meet the Global Finalists series, stay tuned as we get to know all the contenders!

1. Briefly, what is your company’s solution, how does it work, and where did the idea come from? 

Building on award-winning, “frontier-of-science” research at the Australian National University, QuintessenceLabs has harnessed the properties of nature as described by quantum science to fortify the protection of data in-transit, at-rest and in-use.

Recognising that vulnerabilities will always exist, and that breaches will always occur, QuintessenceLabs has approached the data protection problem by developing technology and infrastructure components that protect the data itself.

Our Q-Stream product family allows enterprises to take a modular approach to their data protection needs with four distinct modules that can be applied independently, together, or with third-party vendor products.

 2. Explain how the company was born; who are the key players on your team QLabs_croppedand how did they come together?

The idea to create a start-up a company developing quantum cryptographic technology was seeded at a class on quantum physics at Stanford University. On completion of the Sloan Program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the now founder and CEO of QuintessenceLabs, Vikram Sharma, sat in on a few classes on quantum physics where emerging applications of quantum physics were discussed. Intrigued by the prospects of this potentially disruptive technology, he sought to establish a start-up in this space.

He joined a research team at the Australian National University which achieved one of the world’s first experimental realisations of 2nd gen quantum cryptography – this research was awarded the Eureka national science prize for innovation. QuintessenceLabs was formed to leverage this fundamental scientific research into technologies with practical application to enterprise data protection, and now hosts a highly credentialed team including ten members with doctorates, a world-class group of information security experts, quantum physicists and communications specialists, and an eminent board.

3. How will your solution impact people’s lives for the better?

Through the world-leading development of what can truly be regarded as Next Generation Cryptography, QuintessenceLabs’ technology has the potential to touch every human in all walks of life. As conventional cryptographic solutions approach end-of-life, quantum-based security solutions developed by QuintessenceLabs are the natural successors to protect data both today and tomorrow.

These next-generation solutions enable personal, enterprise and sovereign information to be robustly secured today and, equally, into the future. Other than direct financial benefits and engendering trust, in certain applications the solutions will enable safeguarding of human life.

4. What is the best advice you’ve been given or the most important thing you’ve learned in the SmartCamp competition so far? 

Drawing on the counsel of the deeply talented and experienced mentors with whom we’ve interacted during SmartCamp, the most valuable outcome has been the distillation of a compelling and broadly resonant articulation of the business value of our technology solution.

Another equally valuable piece of advice was to “have fun and enjoy the experience!”

5. In what ways do you hope working with IBM will help your company grow and succeed?

Working with IBM sales, marketing and engineering teams we aim to realise the global commercial potential of QuintessenceLabs’ breakthrough technology. The partnership will accelerate the integration of our technology into broader IBM offerings and produce differentiated solutions with unique capabilities.

Through IBM’s global network of customer touch points, we will be able to rapidly deliver these innovative solutions to enterprises worldwide. Of course, the credibility gained from collaboration with the world’s preeminent technology company is also tremendously valuable and significantly adds to QuintessenceLabs’ credentials.

Finally, the introduction to funding sources offers the potential to raise funds to substantially accelerate both our market development activities and technology development roadmap.

Security+Resilience_Icon_6206. What is the main reason your company should be named IBM SmartCamp’s Entrepreneur of the Year? 

Paralleling many of IBM’s own transformative and very successful products and services, QuintessenceLabs’ technology draws on breakthrough scientific research and deep insight into data security to offer solutions with global application.

This next-generation security technology, which comprehensively addresses the critical problem of safeguarding valuable data, has application in every Smarter Planet initiative. In concert with the IBM team, strong complementarities with a suite of IBM products have already been identified and preliminary integration efforts have commenced to realise the significant commercial potential.

Meet the Regional Finalists: Tracksale

tracksaleTracksale is an online post-sale tool for companies to monitor customer satisfaction and loyalty. Tracksale gets feedback about the customer experience through highly simplified online surveys, generating reports in real time, contributing to the evolution of the company and their products and services.

Retail_Icon_620Tracksale will compete against the five other Latin American startups next week at the SmartCamp Regional Final in their home country of Brazil. The SmartCamp is a two-day event, Dec. 5th and 6th, with the public session being held on the 6th. The two winners of the SmartCamp Regional Final will move on to the Global Finals in New York City this coming February. Check back on this blog on Monday to choose from the six startup finalists in the People’s Choice Vote. This online poll will determine the winner of the People’s Choice Winner next week at the Regional Final.

The Global Entrepreneurial Landscape: A Look at Mexico

As we approach next week’s Latin American SmartCamp Regional Finals and get to know our six finalists, our understanding of these young startups might be improved if we have a broader understanding of the economic environments from which they emerged. Here we will specifically take a look at Mexico, one of the most important economies in Latin America and the home country of finalist Nuve. The essay below was written by Francisco Javier Altamirano Collado, IBM Academic Initiative & Global Entrepreneur Programs Manager.

Some say that Latin America’s combined potential will pass China’s economy in a few years, with Mexico playing a key role in that game. Mexico has embraced several international free trade and investment agreements that make the country one of the most open economies in the world. A recent article in the Economist estimates that on present trends, by 2018 the United States will import more from Mexico than from any other country.

Mexico City is the largest metropolitan area in the Western Hemisphere and with a GDP of $390 billion, it is the eighth richest city in the world. It is a bustling and modern metropolis, home to more than 21 million people and the center of the country’s intellectual and industrial pulse. The Mexican economy, overall, is valued at $1.47 trillion USD, positioning it among the top fifteen largest in the world. Goldman Sachs estimates that by 2050 it will be the sixth largest.

The young emerging middle class population is spurring demand for high-end consumer goods that creates a huge market for related service providers. Small and medium enterprises are capitalizing on these opportunities. The favorable commercial environment, the economic stability (coupled with the now depressed economies of various developed countries) and the significant progress in fiscal and regulatory laws are making Mexico a growing destination for trade and investment.

Entrepreneurship is clearly an essential contributor to this evolution, but it is not just about the emergence of new businesses. The most economic growth actually comes from high impact startups turning into big companies, and there is still a long way to go for Mexico.

In Mexico, companies under 250 employees comprise 99% of the registered companies in the country. These small and medium enterprises contribute to half of the country’s GDP while big companies provide the other half. It is amazing that only 1% of the companies contribute so much, but this is common in many nations. If only a few big companies produce half of the wealth in most countries, how can other SMEs become big companies and be more productive? Some studies indicate that for every 100 organizations that become big companies (over 250 employees), the national GDP is increased 1.28%.

To support this progress, a network of investing firms and experienced coaches is needed. In Mexico, as in all Latin America, the venture capital industry is still nascent. Fundraising is a challenging process that needs to be perfected and there are just not enough funds (investments in the range of $100,000 to $3 million are often termed the “missing middle”).

In addition, there is a need of fund managers with business track records who can lead execution and contribute strategic advice. It’s difficult to find high level executives willing to embrace the challenge and risk their current C-level wages in multinational corporations. The bets will be too high until a viable exit market is established to facilitate the return on investments.

Nevertheless, the amount and quality of entrepreneurial activity has substantially increased in recent years. The Mexican government is making a big push to encourage venture capital and investment in SMEs by sponsoring funds and venture capital projects. New rules now allow pension funds in Mexico to invest in private equity and venture capital funds, which is bringing new money to the market. Foreign funds are also arriving to Mexico and in general, financing is becoming more easily available.

Innovation is definitely critical for economic growth. Mexican universities are graduating 130,000 engineers every year and many of these institutions are now connecting the resulting investigation projects with incubation and acceleration guidance.

All the elements are available, the opportunities and success stories are more frequent.  It seems now it is just a matter of Mexicans believing in their own potential. The new generations are finding novel idols in the recent successes of the National Football team, various athletes in the 2012 Olympics and many other popular heroes that exemplify that talent is present and success is within reach. Could “Made in China” give way to “Hecho en México”?

Save the Date: Latin America Regional SmartCamp Final

Less than a month ago until the LAST SmartCamp event of the year! Get ready for our Latin America Regional Finals December 5th and 6th in Brazil. There’ll be a great lineup of startup finalists who will compete for a chance to move on to the Global Finals in February.